Title: It's A Wonderful Life 2 - A Christmas Carol
Author: RocketMan
Written: December 1999
Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully belong to CC, 1013, and Fox. No fringe is intended. The book "A Christmas Carol" is by Charles Dickens but this is sort of based on all the movies I've seen, especially the Muppet version--it's the best.

Notes: This is the second piece to "It's A Wonderful Life", which was about Mulder, and this is about Scully. It follows-up that one very closely and definitely has to be read first.


Thanksgiving night
Margaret Scully's house

Dana Scully watched Mulder become something else before her eyes, something she wasn't sure she could find herself in. He smoothed her hair back, his eyes a soft shade of brown and grey, his lips formed to say more, but he remained silent.

She backed away, and he followed her, capturing her against the side of the bed, pulling her almost close enough to touch, but leaving their bodies hauntingly apart. He leaned forward, his nose raking the air around her lips, just lightly brushing her neck; his eyelashes feathering her cheeks.

She couldn't breathe and she couldn't move. He was doing nothing but invade her space and she was already aroused, already weak.

"The dream was so real..." he whispered again, and his lips managed to murmur along her ear.

"Mul...Mulder, you should get some sleep."

Scully had to close her eyes to break the spell, but even that didn't remove her from his enchanting touch completely. Not so much his touch, but the feel of his presence. The feel of him surrounding her like an aura. She breathed in and he was there.

And then it was gone.

She blinked, saw that he was halfway across the room already, his back turned to her, his shoulders shaking, heaving with the memories of his dream. He had woken up thinking everything would be put right again, that he would have back his family, only there was no such thing as his family, and nothing was right.

"Mulder?"

He turned back and the crushing hope on his face made her dizzy and sorrowed.

"You can sleep in the guest bedroom. You don't have to sleep on the couch."

He paused, watching her for a moment, then nodded.

Scully licked her lips and almost wished he would stand so close to her again, but she also wanted him to leave so she could think.

"Thanks," he said roughly and she could tell he was fighting tears.

Then he was gone again.

Scully dropped heavily to the bed and stared at the empty doorway. He had come right in, regardless of her privacy and almost catching her nude, his eyes alight with some kind of inner peace, inner joy, that she had never seen before in him.

And then he had kissed her. It was passionate and full and *knowing* and it made her want to stay there in that kiss for all her life. But it hadn't been Mulder, not really; it was some kind of dream he'd had and woken to, thinking it all his reality.

She didn't know what to do now. Thanksgiving had been nice. All right enough, she supposed. Mulder had the tendency to project a gloomy mood whenever he was wallowing in self-pity, and his demeanor had affected her mother as well. Scully had tried to keep things as cheery as possible, but they'd all been thinking about the empty places at the dining room.

She knew her mother missed her Dad. It was natural to do, since he had been such a complete part of her mother for a long time. It wasn't a grief but a bittersweet remembering, and Mulder had picked up on it wrong and managed to feel even more depressed. Scully knew he had. She had felt it.

But the change when he had come into her bedroom, confident and open, loving and tender. She had wanted that so much. She had wanted it; yet it wasn't really him.

Scully pulled down the covers of her bed and slipped between the sheets, trying to revel in the coolness of the bed and the heat of her body and forget Mulder's passion.

Except his words echoed in her head.

<I can't go back to that unknowing.>

And the kiss.

She closed her eyes and buried her head in her pillow. She had to sleep; she had to get some kind of rest to clear her head. Tomorrow she could think about this. Tomorrow she was shopping with her mom on the after Thanksgiving sales.

Tomorrow everything would work out just fine.


"Mulder?"

There was a grunt and then his body moved beneath the sheets, slow and langorous, his head shifting on the pillow.

"Mulder."

She whispered his name again, biting her lip and shaking his shoulder softly. He groaned finally and woke fully, looking up at her and then to the clock.

"What's wrong?" he mumbled, fumbling for his gun.

She stilled his hands and shook her head. "Shopping, Mulder."

"Shopping?" he said, as if the word were foreign.

"Yeah. I thought you said you'd come with us."

"Uh. Yeah...what time is it?"

He had just looked at the clock but she smiled and humored him. "Five."

"Five o'clock!"

"Yeah, we're late."

He groaned again and collapsed back in the bed. "Who shops at five in the morning?"

"On the day after Thanksgiving, everyone does, Mulder. Where have you been?"

"Holed up. And I'm wondering if I shouldn't have stayed there."

She pushed on his inert form and made him grunt.

"Get up, Mulder. I'm making you come with us. I'm coming back in here in fifteen minutes and if you're not dressed and ready to go..."

She trailed off, letting the threat linger. Mulder peeked out from the covers and eyed her with a lewd grin.

"So, if I'm not dressed..."

"Mulder."

"Okay, okay. I'm going."

She smiled and left his room.


"Leave it to me," Mulder said and smirked.

They were standing in the middle of a crowded mall near her mother's house, ready to pick out gifts for Bill's little boy, Matthew, and Charlie's kids. The toy store was spilling over with sales and shoppers, and Scully really wasn't in the mood to battle them all.

"Mulder," she warned, shaking her head.

"What? I'm not going to hurt anyone...at least not seriously."

She sighed and her mother chuckled.

"Don't encourage him, Mom."

Mulder was positively beaming under their attention. He linked arms with them both and began dragging them through the people, shoving their way through the crowd in much the same manner the police handled riots. When they arrived at the toddler section, he wrinkled his nose but followed them down the aisle.

"He's not a baby anymore, Scully," Mulder said.

"Matthew's only three, Mulder."

It stunned her even now. Three. Three years since Emily and the sorrow of that Christmas. She lamented more the loss than anything, not so much of Emily herself, but more of the idea of being a mother to a little girl. But she had put that off rather effectively, telling herself there was always time and science and...Mulder.

His vivid dream of last night interrupted her momentarily and she frowned to clear her thoughts. Mulder was not an option...but if she ever did want to *adopt* a child, she knew Mulder would support her again.

Too many things would have to change first, too many things she wanted to be and do and live right now. She couldn't imagine giving up the X-Files to have a child, but at times, she could feel that child in her arms so powerfully that it ached. Still, she wouldn't trade.

Emily had taught her that much.

"Scully!"

She jumped and whirled around.

"Surely Rock-n-Roll Ernie is not that fascinating?" Mulder quirked, smiling lopsidedly at her.

She put back the Sesame Street toy and shook her head. "I was thinking."

"Well let me resolve your problem. Matthew does *not* want a Rock-n-Roll Ernie."

"And how would you know?"

"I'm a guy. Guy's know."

"Right."

She rolled her eyes and grabbed a package out of his hand. It was a New World Order wrestling figure with a mean looking face, black tights, and a bare chest. She raised an eyebrow at him and held up the plastic box.

"Wrestling, Mulder?"

"Much better."

"Uh, Mulder, once again, Matthew is three. Maybe if he were five, I'd think about it. But I don't think that the poor kid even knows what wrestling is. I pray he doesn't ever know."

Mulder pouted and put the toy back, grumbling. "What do you have against wrestling, Scully? Surely your brothers wrestled with you as a kid."

"Yeah, and it hurt. No thanks."

He grinned. "We could wrestle, Scully."

She smiled benignly back. "Only in the forest Mulder."

He sighed and shook his head. "You wound me."

"Well, that's probably a prerequisite too."

"Ha ha. Funny. You are so funny at six o'clock in the morning."

"You're not so bad yourself."

He suddenly pushed passed her to grab another toy, his mind wandering again. She smiled to herself, realizing that their exchange had been very odd. Mulder rarely managed to keep focused on her long enough to banter like that. It had been almost...warm. It was comfortable and comforting and she had missed it.

Her mother called her over to look at Teletubbies and she left Mulder to the wrestling figures and MicroMachines. She hoped he had forgotten his dream and their conversation in the dark of her room; memories like that could ruin their easy partnership.


They had leftovers for dinner: turkey sandwiches with gravy piled on top, heated until they were just hot enough to burn the roof of her mouth. Mulder asked for milk and Scully's eyebrows shot up, making him laugh. He teased her until she asked for milk too, and they all sat down and ate together.

It was completely different from the night before. Scully was weary and ready to fall into bed, but the conversation was lively and Mulder didn't seem so preoccupied with sorrow and aloneness as he usually was. He exuded a kind of confidence and warmth she hadn't ever really seen before, at least, not so much of it at once.

When they were done, they continued to talk, sitting around the table until the sun set and her mother had to turn on the lights. Another Christmas special was on television and they settled down to watch it. It had been a good Thanksgiving, despite the almost melancholy mood Mulder had been in the day before.

She began to wonder if this was a permanent change.


The office was heated nicely when she walked in, and Mulder was wearing a tie in various shades of green, with dots of red presents like tiny minefields.

"Mulder?"

He glanced up. His suit was dark charcoal grey and his shirt was a smart French blue. Without the tie he would look quite handsome.

"What's with the festive tie?"

He frowned and glanced down to the green and red spectacle.

"Uh..."

"All those different colors of green really don't match that well, Mulder."

She was trying to be gentle.

"Green? No, Scully. This is grey. I asked a sales clerk this time."

"This time? Mulder, it's green and red. I can see it."

He sighed and yanked the tie off, his frustration and embarassment written in his eyes.

"Mulder, it's okay...it's not a big deal."

"Yes it is, Scully. I specifically asked the salesman what color it was and he...he lied to me. Made me look like a fool."

Scully was missing something and she leaned forward and took the tie from his hands, smoothing his shirt with the other.

"Mulder, why didn't you know what color it was?"

"I'm red-green colorblind. It's dominantly green..."

"Oh. I forgot completely."

"Yeah, well..."

She smiled and shook her head. "You looked pretty cute, you know?"

His eyes rose and he glanced up at her. "What?"

"I'm sure all the women in the bullpen watched you walk by, and I'm sure they all thought how cute it was that you couldn't cordinate your outfit, that you got caught up in the holiday spirit."

"I usually do very well."

"Yeah, you do. But this time..."

"You think it's cute?" he said, his eyebrow raising to tease her.

She shrugged. "I didn't say me. I said all the women in the bullpen. Personally, I think you ought to let *me* shop for your ties so you know what you're getting."

"I think I will," he said quietly.

She smiled hesitantly, but realized that something had happened. She had put them on different footing somehow, and he was reading more into her words than he should.

In fact, since Thanksgiving he had been different. Changed in a good way mainly, but then there were quirks, times when she didn't know what was going on.

Like now.

"I'll get you a good tie for Christmas," she said, trying desperately to kill the strange look in his eyes.

"Thanks. I should probably get you something equally as domestic," he said.

Scully's mind raced for answers, clues, hints, anything. Equally as domestic? She supposed it was rather domestic, buying his ties, fixing his wardrobe...almost like she was his wife or something.

She wondered dismally if she could have the old Mulder back. Not that this new one wasn't loads more content, but...she had no idea where he was going anymore.


December 24
Margaret Scully's house

Her mother had a thing for Jimmy Stewart, and she loved Donna Reed, so they watched "It's A Wonderful Life" on the television one last time. Mulder wanted to complain, but Scully was falling asleep and he liked to watch her.

She was scrunched into a corner of the couch, conspicuously keeping herself away from Mulder, who was at the opposite end. She kept nodding off, only to be reawakened by a laugh from the television or her by her head slipping down the arm of the couch.

Finally, she scooted down a bit and leaned against the cushions, letting her eyes close. She could feel the heat of Mulder's thigh near her toes; he was sprawled in every direction, watching with some degree of interest.

It got completely dark, her mother having turned out the lamp so there wasn't a glare on the television. She was falling asleep but couldn't stop herself, and Mulder's hand came to rest on her foot.

Her stomach felt filled with lead, sitting low and heavy and making her almost nauseated by it. Her mother's Christmas Eve feast had been a little too good, she thought. She didn't dare move, for fear of actually throwing up, and she tried very hard not to think.

Mulder made a sudden move and gently pulled her down the couch so that she was laying stretched out, her head in a more comfortable position--his lap. His hand rested on her elbow now but she couldn't possibly make herself move away. He was warm and so obviously wanting, needing her that she didn't want to pull back.

She was just tired. Just so very tired.


"Scully?"

She heard him from far off, still wrapped in the guaze of sleep and denial, her body heavy and warm.

"Scully, your mom's already gone to bed and the movie ended hours ago."

She woke up at that and pushed away from his lap, still tangled in his arms and using her sleep-confusion as an excuse to stay that way. He smiled haphazardly and looped his arms around her waist, cocking his head.

"You okay?"

She nodded. "Where's my mom?"

"She went to bed," he repeated and felt the darkness of the room like liquid oiling their touches.

"Oh, I guess we should too."

"Guess so. You've been asleep for three hours."

She smiled softly and realized she was half in his lap, her legs on either side of his right leg, and her body facing his on the couch. She wondered how that had happened, but tried not to think about it.

Her stomach ache was gone.

"Scully?" he asked, but there was no question behind his eyes, no doubts or wonderings. He knew exactly what he was going to do and his saying her name was only a fair warning.

She waited until his lips were mere seconds from hers and then she closed her eyes, her fingers trembling against his thighs.

The kiss was a gentle pressure of his lips, his nose against her cheek and breath heating her skin. His tongue teased her mouth open but did not venture inside, and she found herself wishing he would, wishing she had the vulnerability to let them and he the courage to do it.

Her eyes opened when he pulled back and she licked her lips unconsciously. She smiled despite the awe, despite the scene Thanksgiving night that had made her want to run. It was a confident, indulgent smile, her lips spread across her face where once they had been meshed and molded into his.

He smiled tentatively back, but the confidence of the move still remained in his eyes. He wanted to kiss her again, but once was enough, one at a time for now.

His fingers worked at her belt loops and then pushed her from his lap with a gentle grip. She seemed confused and he stood up, bringing her with him.

"You should go to bed," he said, and made sure his wording was clear. He was not rushing her into anything. It had just been a sweet kiss.

"Yeah," she said and moved to leave him. His hands were still on her waist and as she turned, he gripped her tighter, not letting her go.

"Ah, Mulder," she said with a faint smile, turning back to make him release her.

This time his kiss was a complete surprise, and the shock of it mingled with his flavor like rum in egg nog, thick and sharp. His lips were urgent but gentle, almost as if he were staking claim before her dreams stole her away.

They separated with a deep breath, Scully shaking but wishing she were not, Mulder steady and sure and intense. There were places he had been to on Thanksgiving night, things and events and a family for him to come back to. He was doing his best.

"Good night, Scully."

"Mulder," she sighed and shook her head.

He became guarded immediately, his eyes growing flinty and cold. She knew she had hurt him. She didn't know how not to.

"This isn't a good idea, and...I..."

"Just sleep on it, Scully. This is fast, I know, but it's something already here."

"No. Mulder, there's just too much...I just don't have the energy to keep up."

"You need sleep, Scully. You'll feel better in the morning."

She wanted to scream. A night of sleep wouldn't suddenly give her enough energy, enough of a force to deal with a relationship other than what they had. There was just too much Mulder, too much her, too much old baggage and too much work involved in keeping them more than civil. It was just so much easier to fight with him, so much easier to occasionally hate what they did.

"I'll see you in the morning."

She nodded and left the room; her footsteps soon echoed off the stairs and met his ears and his frown. He could change this around, right?; it was possible for her this to be easier than she thought. And maybe she would dream about him, he thought, maybe he would dream about her.

But he wasn't holding out for much. Maybe this had all been a mistake.


She had finally made her heart stop pounding long enough to fall asleep but her dreams were wild and frightening and seducing. She couldn't stay in one place long enough to know what happened, and she couldn't get out of the dreams that changed to nightmares.

She woke at one point during the night and got up for a glass of water. She peaked in on Mulder in the guest bedroom and his body was splayed across the sheets in utter abandon. She smiled and moved to the kitchen, running water in an old Tupperware cup and drinking it all at once.

When she had settled back into bed, she couldn't seem to get to sleep, and she lay there for an hour watching the clock change. Just when she was beginning to drift off, when her conscious mind was leting go, she began to dream again. Her eyes were open, her body loose but tense, and she could see the clock's hands move. But other images battled in her view for dominance and she had vague impressions of blood and a knife, of herself being chased through dirty streets by Mulder and policemen, and death all around her.

One phrase swam through her haze of dreaming and wakefulness: "Because I could not stop for Death-- He kindly Stopped for me." That's how she saw it in her head, with those letters and punctuation, even though she knew it was different in the real Dickinson poem.

She couldn't understand what was going on: she was dreaming and she was not. She was wide awake, she knew that, could see the clock, could lift her hand to her lips, could look around the room.

But her heart was pounding loudly, so that the entire bed shook, and her blood sang through her head like Sirens. She couldn't move her legs to get out of bed, but she could close her eyes and open them, and she could curl further into her bed.

She was murdering people. In her dream-hallucination, she was killing people nearby and far away. Her knife would fall fall fall and the dead man/woman would fall too. She wanted to stop the dream, but couldn't get away; she wanted Mulder to catch her but she was afraid of what he would do.

There was her sister, gone was her sister. There was her Emily, gone was her Emily. There was her father, gone and gone was her father. There were mother and brothers and nephews and neice, gone were they all.

She was killing everything in her life, killing herself, death to all, gone everything gone.

Scully shook her head on her pillow and felt her head thud thud thud thud thud...

Someone stop me something wake me up. There's no one here to make it stop; the dream won't end and it won't even begin.

Then the death was over and she was awake as she always had been but no images and no night terror.

Her heart was slowly regaining normal speed and function, she thought, but her head was still dizzy and reeling. She lay there for a long time trying to balance her heart rate and breathing, telling herself that it was all okay.

She felt an icy grip on her ankle and tensed, praying it was Mulder. Please, Mulder, please.

Not Mulder. She closed her eyes and looked again.

An image of white, shimmering and small, like a child smiling at her. It was a little boy and not Emily, but that was her first thought. The child had thin hair and a thin face, his cheeks were white and his old-fashioned clothes were white and he looked like a television show's idea of an angel.

Scully lay back down and closed her eyes, yanking her foot up to her body and shaking loose the image. This was not happening.

"Dana?"

No, this was not happening. This was not happening.

"Dana. Open your eyes."

Scully buried her head further into her pillow and squeezed her eyes shut. This was one of those waking nightmares again. She needed to change her sleep habits or diet or something; this was getting ridiculous.

"Dana."

This time the voice was a command and before she could do anything, she was yanked from bed and on the floor, eyes open wide and a bruise on her elbow.

"Oh God."

"No, it's not God, silly. He wouldn't like that at all..."

Scully whimpered but found her eyes would not shut this time; she could not escape the child-form in front of her. Wisps of hair seemed to float around the boy's head like he was statically charged, and Scully leaned against the bed to get as far away as possible.

"Dana, I have some things to show you."

"Who are you?"

"The Spirit of Christmas Past."


"Oh no..." she groaned and shook her head. "This is the nuttiest dream I've ever had."

"I am!"

"Okay, sure. Are you lost?"

"No. I know where I am. Stop it!"

The boy pushed away Scully's helping hand, and the contact was like ice but stinging, cold and daggers. Scully froze and really looked at the little boy, finding it hard to accept the actuality of his existence.

"Dana Katherine Scully. You're pitiful, you know."

"And you're a child. What do you know?"

"I'm the ghost of Christmas Past."

"I thought you said spirit."

The boy-spirit rolled his eyes. "Same thing. You know, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit."

"I see," Scully said, but she did not. She didn't want this to be happening, but she figured if her mind were playing tricks on her, then there was something that needed to be said by her unconscious. Right?

"You know the drill, right? Dickens made a fortune with this."

"The drill? As I recall, Dickens' story was rather formal and noble sounding. You sound rather-"

"Hey, we have to change with the times, otherwise no one would take us seriously."

"Yeah, I know the drill. Where are we going?"

The little boy looked delighted and he leaned down and kissed Scully's cheek. The touch was still chilly, but rather gentle and almost friendly.

"We're going to see everything!"

"Everything? That will take a lot more than one night, won't it?"

The boy looked petulantly at her and frowned. "You ruin everyone's fun, you know that?"

Scully looked thunderstruck, and the boy covered his mouth with his hands, his eyes wide. Evidently, he wasn't supposed to have said that.

She felt herself close down again, that burrowing inside herself whenever something hurtful was said. She had gotten used to the feeling of protection, but here, against this child, it felt wrong. The boy's words hurt more than they should have.

"I'm sorry. Please don't be mad at me. Please don't be mad."

Scully looked into the boy's face again and saw something so very familiar, so very painfully familiar that she almost couldn't breathe.

"Mulder?"

A tiny grin quirked the child's lips and he took her hand in his, the touch cold and dead.

"You can call me Fox."

"What?"

She glanced to the doorway, then back to the little boy spirit of Mulder, Mulder, her mind clicked along fast like a train derailing.

"Mulder. Is he okay? Is he...dead?"

"Of course not."

"Then why are you his spirit? No, I mean, why are you him? If he's not dead. . ."

"Here, I'll show you."

She felt as if she'd been shoved again, the room was cold, her bare feet on the floor felt only air, windy sheets of cold; her eyes were shut tightly.

"Look, Dana. Be careful not to wake him; he wouldn't understand."

She opened her eyes and found she was standing over Mulder's bed, his form still spread out and slack with sleep. She reached out and touched his neck, felt the steady thumping pulse of blood through his artery and sighed with relief.

The boy tugged on her silk pajama top and she withdrew her light touch. Fox took her hand and she was spinning crazily again, being violently shoved aside as time marched forever on.

And then she was not in her mother's house. She did not know where she was, but Fox was at her side, his small hand tightly clasping hers. Scully glanced around, trying to understand why the hallway looked so familiar. So many countless hospital hallways, and this one was no different.

"Where are we, Fox?"

"Just wait, Dana. You're too impatient."

She frowned and glanced back down the corridor again, irritated at Fox for having brought her here when she did not know what she was supposed to be seeing.

Was this even real?

There was her father!

"Dad!" she blurted out and ran for him before she even knew her feet were moving.

"Dana! Stop, he won't be able to--"

Her hug went unnoticed and unfelt and Scully halted in the hallway, her eyes inches from her father's, her breath not touching him even as loud and close as it was.

Right. Christmas Past.

When he began to move, she scuttled quickly out of the way, following his wake like a submarine tracking an enemy destroyer. It was how she felt; it was appropriate for her father. Hulking, large, Navy man.

William Scully opened a door and she slipped inside with him, finding Fox already in the room, his small smile almost teasing. Behind the smile his eyes seemed sad and bitter, almost too much like the Mulder he would grow up to be.

She saw herself four years old in the wide bed, her hair still that too bright day-glo orange that curled on her head like a mop, like Annie. Her mother was stroking her forehead and singing something and there was a small tree in the window that edged the wall.

"Hey, Starbuck. What did you do?"

The little girl version of herself looked into her father's eyes and began to cry, tightly and without control. Her father shook his head and kissed her forehead, then hugged her carefully, afraid of hurting her.

"You managed to get us stuck here for Christmas, huh girl?"

The small Dana nodded but still cried, and Scully could see her father wince. She remembered this Christmas Eve, remembered clearly her father wincing. She had been afraid her father did not love her enough, and had winced because she was being so weak, so girly. A boy in her class had told everyone how his father said all dads wanted boys, they never wanted girls.

Her father's wince was a reaction to her crying, yes, but only because he did not know how to deal with it when his children, his wife, cried. He hated seeing her in pain; Scully knew that now. She had not known it then.

"I'm sorry, Daddy, I'm so sorry. It's all my fault."

"It's all right, pumpkin. You didn't mean to get your tonsils all swollen."

Her mother's words had meant nothing at that point; her father was the only one who could make it right.

"It's okay. We'll have a great Christmas here, Starbuck. Santa will find us."

The relief on her face was clear that Scully felt embarassed for her father, her mother, herself. To be so obviously dependent on her father's acceptance...

"You love your Dad," the boy said and Scully's head whipped around to see him gesturing to her.

"Yes."

"You love your father; it's okay to be dependent on him. They understand. It's how children are supposed to be. And you know that your Dad loved you."

"Yes, I know. My brothers and sister hated me for ruining Christmas, though."

"But your parents made it okay. It was all okay. Your father loves you."

Scully glanced down to the boy, remembering with a flash that this was Fox, was Mulder as a child standing before her. She moved forward with him and took his hand.

"Yes, I was lucky to have parents who wanted me, who loved me."

Fox nodded, but his eyes were sad, his face like cold white marble.

"Let's go," he said.

She felt the shove, the sense that all her being was being crunched into a tight space. She wondered briefly if they shouldn't be flying. Didn't the ghost of Christmas Past fly in all the movies?

And then she was back. Vision returned slowly, her eyes adjusting to the slight darkness.

She saw herself, maybe seven years ago? she couldn't tell. Her body was curled into the couch small and tight, her eyes slipping shut. Scully could see the leftovers on the counter of her small apartment kitchen; her pre-Duane Barry apartment on the ground floor.

Never again. Her mother, after paying her rent for two months during her disappearance, had let that apartment go. Scully wouldn't have wanted to live there again anyway.

She saw the huge Christmas tree in the living room: the tree that dwarfed the room and made her feel even smaller than she actually was. She smelled the cooking, the casserole she had made especially for her father that night. It was not Christmas Eve.

"Why this?" she asked the ghost.

"Why not?"

Scully shook her head and watched the infomercial on the quiet television, knowing what would come.

The version of her on the couch woke slowly, eyes blinking. And then the shimmer of her father on the chair, his favorite chair at her apartment, the shimmer that mouthed something to her. She had never known what he had mouthed, but this time, she could hear.

It made her weep: she could hear him.

"I'm proud of you, Starbuck. The FBI is a rough place, but you've made it. I will always be proud of you, my baby girl."

She sank to the floor even as the self of her shook, even as the phone rang, even as the news came over the line. She cried as her old self cried, the tears in her eyes relief instead of fresh grief.

"Proud of me," she whispered and buried her head in her arms. He had always been proud of her. Everything she went through with Boggs, every doubt about her father and about herself...It even made her strive to be better to Mulder, made her not want to disappoint ever...not like she had her father.

But she hadn't disappointed him.

"Dana?"

Her head snapped up, the tears still fresh and streaking her cheeks. She was in a different place again; she had felt the shove-aside but had been a little more prepared for the rough feelings.

"Fox...I just want to go home, please."

She knew instinctively what would be next and she didn't want to see it. he didn't want to even know what her next 'lesson' was supposed to be.

"Dana, you need this."

She dried her eyes with a hand and looked around. Another hospital. Why had she spent so much time in hospitals?

Shakily, she stood up, watching the nurses bustle around her, seeing the long hall to her left and the door to her right. She glanced inside and saw Emily on the hospital bed, her cheeks and eyes sunken and hollow, her forehead sweaty and glistening. She saw herself, standing behind the glass, her own forehead pressed to the window.

Scully closed her eyes tightly, trying to contain the emotions threatening to overspill. There was a noise from the hall and she turned to see Mulder hurrying down the corridor, his face set grimly and his hands clutching something.

She watched him pause outside the door, his palm revealing a smooth metal canister. It looked like he had just gotten back from the retirement home, his tie was loose and his eyes were wild.

She watched him shut his eyes briefly, then slip the metal tube into his pocket. He glanced inside once, saw her standing there against the glass. She heard his heavy, heart rending sigh that seemed to rip apart her soul. And then he opened the door and walked inside.

Fox took her hand and they were snapped inside the room, watching Scully tense as Mulder approached her. She could hear their voices, low and soft and bitter. She could feel the memory of the pain like a hand pressing her down.

She didn't remember exactly what he'd said then; she'd been too focused on the dying girl behind the glass.

"If you could save her..."

Scully held her breath, seeing the image of the canister in Mulder's palm, knowing now that he had let her make the choice honestly, without personal pain or desperation getting in the way. She had made the decision to let Emily go, but only because Emily was so very sick.

"She's wasn't meant to be."

Fox took her hand, but she shook him off, trying to move forward, to make her other self do something, reach out to him.

Mulder asked if she wanted company.

"She needs you, Mulder, please. Don't go, don't go."

But her other self denied his touch, his sympathy, his sorrow, and pushed him away. He left with a heavy head and clutched hands, both of them hurting so very much. She couldn't believe she had let him leave; she had needed to be touched so very badly, but she had pushed him away.

She followed her other self into Emily's room, disregarding the hazard signs and the quarantine procedures. She curled at the foot of Emily's bed, watching with a shattered heart as her other self lay down slowly and agonizingly. Emily's little body struggled for breath and then gave up.

Scully, past and present, sobbed.


A hand on her forehead soothed the tears until she could relax her muscles and almost drift into sleep. But then she startled awake and stared into the dark eyes of a white haired woman.

"Who are you?"

"Fox said you knew the drill," she answered, and her accent was heavily Navajo.

"Fox?" she repeated, and then her mind unfuzzed. "Oh, oh, right. You're the ghost of Christmas Present?"

"Right. Spirit at your service," she said and stroked Scully's forehead again with a well worked hand. Calluses scraped her skin, but it felt oddly reassuring.

The Spirit was regal looking, with wide cheekbones that were not sallow with age, merely soft with life. Her hair was white, but her face and body were young, and her breasts and wasit were curved with supple flesh. She seemed robust, healthy, cheerful, giving.

Scully remembered the Christmas Present ghost from television shows, the fat man that ate too much, the laughing voice, the broad hands.

"You're not what I expected," she admitted.

"You didn't expect any of this."

Scully smiled and shrugged, feeling hopelessly lost in her own dreams. All she could tell herself, and remain sane, was that this was all a dream, an elaborate way of telling her conscious mind all the answers that her unconscious was screaming at her.

"How could this be a dream, Dana? If this were a dream, I'd be exactly what you expected."

Scully gaped at the woman, felt her cheeks flaming hot.

"Well, let's get on with it. There's more to show you."

She wondered if the Spirit was annoyed with her and felt that was a mistake-- to have this regal woman annoyed with her.

She followed anyway, taking the woman's outstretched hand firmly, closing her eyes as she waited for the shove-aside feel of moving through time.

But this time there was a gentle breeze, like a breath of Summer wind across her cheeks, ruffling her hair. The feeling was pleasant and relaxing, just as the woman's hand had been on her forehead.

A delighted laugh reached her ears. "You can open your eyes, Dana-child."

She did and saw her own mother's kitchen, the smells like heaven and childhood mixed, Christmas dinner cooked to perfection. Her mother came in with Mulder in tow, both wearing strained faces, despite the joy of the kitchen smells.

"You just have to let her have some space, Fox. She's jumpy at times."

"I messed that up then. I got her a ring. I guess that wasn't a good idea."

Mrs. Scully turned in shock to see him leaning against the counter, his hands in his pocekts. He pulled out a jeweller's box and opened it for her. It was an intricate band of silver and gold, the engravings like Celtic runes and patterns along the sides. Set into the middle and oval-shaped to follow the line of the band was a dark saphire.

Scully felt her knees tremble at the sight and she turned to the Spirit.

"But..."

"Oh dear," her mother said. "Is that...an engagement ring?"

Mulder looked at it in surprise, his eyes widening. "I hadn't thought...I don't..."

Mulder trailed off looking at it.

"All I can say is, be patient. She wants whatever this means as much as you do."

Scully felt her shock grow into confusion and glanced over to the Navajo Spirit beside her.

"What's going on?"

"This is tomorrow, at your mother's home."

"Tomorrow? He wants to give me that ring tomorrow?"

Scully felt like fainting, but turned back to the conversation before her.

"I try to tell her...she doesn't want to listen. I don't think she wants to let me down."

Mrs. Scully shook her head emphatically. "She's just so tired, Fox. She thinks it will be too hard. I've tried to tell her that being alone takes more work and more energy than giving in to love."

"But to her, this is work. I thought we had moved past that..."

"Dana's good at regressing."

Mulder gave her a ghost of a smile and shook his head. "I'm making her uncomfortable. This will make her uncomfortable. I think I should leave."

"Fox."

"No. It's better. I...I kissed her last night and she...she hated it."

"No!" Scully shouted out, her breath and heart rapid. But Mulder tomorrow did not hear her, and she watched as he slipped out the back door of the kitchen and through the yard. She could hear his car start and her mother stood there, shaking her head and sighing.

She watched the door open and her tomorrow self walk in, her face concerned.

"Where did Mulder go?"

"He left, honey..."

Her other's face was stricken and she ran to the back door, only to see the silence of the street. It was snowing and the whiteness was like a mocking deafness to her ears. She strained to see any sight of him, but he had left.

Scully gripped the Spirit's hand tighter and watched herself turn around. The mask was carefully in place, but it was so frail and so obviously fake that she wanted to scream. Her tomorrow self was an idiot; who did she think she was fooling?

"Why did he leave, mom?"

"I...I don't think he felt very welcome."

Scully watched her face crumble, like watching herself cry in a mirror. First her lips parted with shock, then her knees gave way, then she was shaking her head as if to rid herself of the tears. She was shaking but silent, and she soon had control over her emotions again.

"Dana, honey, are you all right?"

"I'm fine," she answered on her eyes were clear again, her head held proudly.

Scully couldn't believe it. The absolute change. If anyone else were watching, they would think her nuts. The tomorrow version of herself seemed pacified and calm, the only betrayal being a quirk of her lips.

"Are you going to go after him?"

"No," she answered softly. "He must hate me now."

Scully could feel the pain of the words as surely as if she had said them, and she had, sort of, but they cut and they tore, and they hurt to hear.

"Dana, he does not. He thinks you don't want him here!" Her mother shook her head.

Scully watched herself move away, in control again and fiercely denying anything was wrong. She seemed only pitiful. She knew it was what Mulder must see all the time. A pitiful attempt to deny reality.

Before she could follow her other self to the dining room, a rushing wind chilled her heart and she was being blown away, her hand tightly in the Spirit's grip, her eyes closing again.

And then the wind storm stopped and she was on solid ground again.

A hospital. She groaned and shook her head. She saw herself in the waiting room, and moved to enter it, but the Spirit tugged her hand and guided her to the emergency room doors. They passed through without a murmur and then they were inside a trauma room; Scully remembered the one at Georgetown from personal experience and interning.

Mulder was lying on the table, blood liberally dousing the sheets, the gloves, his body. She turned in horror, clamping a hand over her mouth to keep from retching.

"Watch," the Spirit said and she found her eyes being pulled back to Mulder.

She couldn't *not* watch anyway.

There were two doctors and about five nurses, all crowding to place IV bags or needles into his skin or hands on his broken places. She saw where they had cut away his coat and it was coated with ice and snow. His fingers and toes and even his legs were blue and looked frozen. She put out a hand and touched his foot.

It twitched but was chilled. She felt fear rising in her and turned to the Spirit.

"What happens to him? Why is he so cold?"

"He was out walking in his neighborhood and a car hit him, but it sped off. You came looking for him at six o'clock and by that time he had been outside for four hours."

"What?" she whispered, and her head turned back to see Mulder.

"It was an accident. Things happen. He'll die here and things will get messed up, but God can righten it all out." The Spirit seemed unpreturbed.

"Righten it? He can't possibly make it right if Mulder dies!" she screamed, feeling tears in her eyes.

"Oh, you won't have Mulder, but his death will teach you a valuable lesson about your own life, about the extent and breadth of love. It's a lesson you need to learn, to understand."

"But...he doesn't have to die to teach me a lesson. How can that be worth the suffering? That's not a reason for this senseless...senseless..."

The Navajo woman shrugged and Scully turned back to Mulder's limp and cold body, not quite dead but rapidly deteriorating. A small box caught her eye and she looked closer at the bloodied sheets to see that he was clutching her ring in his cold hand. She began to cry, her tears silent and streaming down her cheeks, but she didn't care. Scully leaned forward to kiss his forehead, praying to wake up, to go back and keep this from happening. She could change things, right? She could change it.

Her lips met air and her limbs were shaking with cold. Scully sighed and looked up; they were in a dirty apartment building, the rat droppings still on the floor and the walls a horrid shade of yellow.

"Where are we?" she asked the Spirit.

"In DC. Christmas Day still."

Scully frowned and glanced around. There was nothing going on, no decorations or dogs, people or rats even. A dim bare bulb glowed at one end of the hall and she instinctively headed towards it.

The door was open and she glanced inside, feeling the Spirit at her side. There was a woman passed out on the couch and the smell of cocaine and meth was heavy in the air. A little girl, maybe three or four, was curled up at the window, watching the snow with glazed eyes.

Scully frowned and moved closer to the woman, saw that her lips were lined with dried blood and her fingers were blue.

"Tis' the season for dying, huh?" she asked bitterly and turned to see the Spirit. She only got a shrug.

"Lots of people die in the city. Any day of the year. Why should Christmas be different?"

"Because..."

Scully found she didn't have answer that sounded logical, only the feeling that Christmas should be special for everyone.

The little girl had brown hair that was greasy from not being washed, and her eyes had the dead look of poverty and drugs. She was probably high off the fumes. Scully glanced to the kitchen and saw a regular chemistry lab set up over the stove. The woman was making meth.

Scully bent down and touched the girl's forehead, finding it slick with sweat. She was burning with fever and shivering at the window ledge, but her eyes tracked the snow as it fell.

She wrapped her arms around the little girl, knowing it would do no good, but tried anyway. She had to do something, anything.

"Who is this little girl?"

"Her name's Angel."

Scully smiled despite the situation and kissed the girl's head. "Angel? What...why am I seeing her?"

"She's your little girl."

"My little girl?"

"Well, yes. She doesn't really exist...not specifically. But this is what you consign your children to."

"I can't have children."

"How do you know if you've never tried?"

Scully paused and glanced to the girl in her arms, the dark hair and glazed eyes. She stroked the child's hair away from her face and kissed her forehead.

"Why is she with this woman?"

"Because you don't want her."

"That's not true!"

"She's symbolic of what you're throwing away. You know spirits, we have to be symbolic and ominous and eccentric."

"What do you mean? I don't understand."

The woman sighed. "Precisely. This child...your children are waiting for you to accept love, to accept what's being so freely given to you. She's yours, and she's Mulder's, and when you deny him, you deny her."

Scully closed her eyes and shook her head. "Mulder?"

"Where do you think she gets the dark hair and dark eyes?"

Scully glanced to Angel's still form and ran a gentle hand over her eyes.

"Mulder is dead..." she whispered, and felt her breath catching.

"Tommorow, Mulder is dead. Only tomorrow."

Scully buried her face into the girl's hair, crying again, not even knowing she had tears left to cry. How could she possibly find this girl again? She gasped and felt the wind again, felt the girl shimmer around her. She shook her head.

"No. No. Let me see how to find her..."


Time flashed and she was in her room, at the foot of her bed, sobbing. Scully dried her eyes and glanced around for the Spirit.

She gasped at the looming figure in the corner. Her voice echoed off the walls eerily and she realized she was *still dreaming* and it wasn't going to stop any time soon.

"Christmas Future?" she asked, managing to still her madly beating heart.

A hand reached for her and she was snatched up and away, hurtling through space like a shooting star, burning and burning and yet so very cold. She was going faster than her body could take, she was heating up on the outside but freezing on the inside. She shivered and looked around.

A cemetery. How original. If she was dreaming, then this was exactly what she expected.

A figure thudded into her and she turned around to see a towering black spectre, all in fuzzy shadows and ill-defined lines, almost as if he were a reflection in an old mirror. But a reflection of what?

Herself. Her dark side. She shivered again and asked where exactly she was.

No answer. Oh right, the silent Ghost.

"Okay, I'll figure it out for myself," she muttered and moved away.

It was snowing and the wind was blowing. She felt frozen stiff without a coat and her silk pajamas were no help in keeping the wind out. She crossed her arms and tried to push through the cold to the graves, but it felt as if something were holding her back.

She turned and the black spectre had a hand on her shoulder, a hand she had not felt, and he was keeping her from moving. So she stepped back and waited, moving closer to his large bulk to keep the wind from attacking her.

A funeral procession was moving forward and she gasped to see her mother sobbing as the casket was led through the graves. She watched in imitative silence next to the Ghost, keeping her hands beneath her arms for warmth. She felt deathly cold.

When it was over she was allowed to move forward and as she did, she realized that the wind wasn't blowing--had never been blowing--but that it was a constant freezing chill inside of her that felt like wind.

The trees were still, the graveyard was dense with the silence, and the Spectre beside her was ominous in his black shadows against the white of the snow.

She was surprised to see that a tombstone was already prepared for the grave and it was laid carefully next to Mulder's. She bent down in puzzlement; she had expected the funeral to be for Mulder.

She traced over Mulder's chiseled name, then sighed and glanced to the other grave, still open and the casket accumulating a light dust of snow.

The marker was darkly marblized, but still granite, and a twin of Mulder's. She saw her own name on the enscription and she froze, tensely, at the words beneath.

"She could not be without him."

Scully reeled back, away from the dirty snow surrounding her grave, away from the coffin in the frozen earth.

"No, no. Suicide? I committed suicide because of Mulder...?"

She glanced to the dark Ghost to see its head nodding slowly, a finger pointing to a rise beyond the graves. She took one last look at her grave, so snugly close to Mulder's, and then started for the hill.

There was one lone tree, scraggly and unkempt, and it was just outside the cemetery's fence. Technically, none of this land was ordained for graves, but she saw many pauper's wooden crosses or plain unfinished markers. They scattered over the land like fallen soldiers and she felt tears spring to her eyes again.

The Ghost pointed to a specific plot of land and she moved forward, looking at the rough wooden marker. It was engraved with a kind of awkward style, choppy but beautiful.

"Angel"

She glanced up at the other markers and they all read Angel, every single one of them, thousands of children she had never allowed herself to think about.

She felt her breath catch and her eyes slammed shut, refusing to believe. She felt a great shuddering rush through her like mighty wind of God, and she felt the tears freeze in the cold.

"No, I promise it will change. I'll change it. I promise...please, don't take my children away from me."

She felt ridiculous, crying soundlessly like this at the feet of a shadowy man, but she could feel their death in the deepest parts of her, just as she had felt Mulder's death in her soul. She was freezing, shivering in the wind and trying to keep from dying herslf, her dream self dying? She thought it possible.

"Angel..."

Don't take her away from us, she amended silently. From us...


When Mulder ran in, she was thrashing in the bed mumbling a name over and over again. He expected her to be hot with dreams, but she was deathly cold, her lips even blue. Easing against the bed, he knelt beside her and shook her gently.

"Scully? Scully, wake up."

He could hear her whisper "angel, angel" soft and hauntingly broken, and tears streamed down her cheeks. He remembered his Thanksgiving dreams, about their daughter Angel, and wondered if she was seeing her.

And crying? He didn't like this.

"Scully?"

She gasped and woke in a flash, like lightening in a bottle, raw energy and emotion. Scully blinked away the tears still clouding her eyes and saw his concerned face watching her.

"Mulder," she whispered, but everything about the name implied sorrow and grief.

He cradled her close to him, shutting his eyes to the desolation in her look, trying to ignore the cling of her hands and arms against him.

"It's okay, Scully. You're right here with me."

She shuddered and he felt the tears against his shoulder with surprise. He had been sure she was completely stone-cold to him after he had kissed her in the living room. She was warm and alive and reaching for him, now.

"Who's Angel?" he whispered.

She stiffened, but would not let him move away from her. She closed her eyes tightly and shook her head.

"Scully...did you meet Angel?" he whispered.

She nodded softly, and he pushed back to see her face. She was crying softly now, her fingers like steel on his arms.

"Our...our Angel?"

Her mouth quirked in a sad smile and she nodded again, blinking away tears.

"What happened to her?"

"It's all my fault," she whispered and her breath caught on a strangled sob.

"No, no it's not. It couldn't be," he whispered and met her forehead with his. She was breathing quietly but rapidly, and he could almost taste the salt of her tears on his every inhalation.

She wrapped her arms around his neck, threading her fingers through his hair, holding tightly to him. He could feel the cliff-edge of her control, and the dizzying spiral down to her insanity.

"It's all okay, Scully. It was just a dream," he said, even though he believed it really wasn't.

"No," she whispered and shook her head against his. "But I can change it, let me change it."

He sighed and closed his eyes, wishing he could do something to help her fight whatever sorrow was taking hold of her. When he glanced up, her eyes were dry and fierce on his, her lips parted.

"Let me change it," she said again and ran a finger over his cheek.

Mulder stilled with the movement, his mind racing despite the shock of her touch to his skin. What was she doing? She couldn't possibly be awake now; she had to still be dreaming...

"Scully..." he warned, his eyes frantic.

"Let me kiss you," she said finally.

He froze, and she pushed her head forward to let her lips capture his. The touch was brief and shaky as her neck muscles strained, but he wrapped his arm around her and held her up.

She arched again to touch his mouth: sweet gentle kiss on his lips: her fingers moving along his neck and hairline: his eyes closed with the unreality of it. She tugged and he moved closer to her, sliding so that he was nearly on top of her, his chest resting on the bed, his knees still on the floor.

Her lips moved and brushed his neck, his Adam's apple, suckled slightly on his bottom lip, thick and full and pouting. He held her arms at her side and crept into the bed, settling at her side with his lips and tongue dancing on her mouth.

She pulled back and watched him above her, his breath spurting as his eyes devoured her. Scully traced one hand down his cheek and jaw then rubbed his lips with a finger.

"Merry Christmas, Mulder."

He smiled, closing his eyes and shaking his head. She felt him dip down and rest against her shoulder, something between a laugh and a cry coming from his lips.

"Come with me," he whispered and tugged her from the bed.

She wiped her cheeks free of tears and slipped out of bed to follow along behind him. He paused at his room and palmed something, but she couldn't see in the moonlight. He made his way down to the living room where the Christmas tree still glowed in its multi-colored lights and bright ornaments. She spotted the apple with her name painted on it and the ornament that was custom-made to announce her birth.

"Scully,"

She turned and he was looking hard at her, an almost frown on his face. She reached up and smoothed the wrinkle line in his forehead almost unconsciously, blushing when he smiled at her.

He fumbled for her hands and slipped something into her palm, closing her fist over it. She felt soft velvet and a box shape and her heart began to pound.

"Mulder," she whispered, fear and joy mixing.

"Scully, would you marry me?"

She couldn't breathe, couldn't draw the breath to answer, so she nodded instead and pressed her face into his chest, crying good, healing tears that eased down her cheeks like beginners on ski slopes.

"Yes?" he asked, his voice rough.

"Of course, yes."

He wrapped her in a tight embrace, crushing her to him. She kissed the hollow of his throat, then his chest, as much of him as she could reach.

"Aren't you going to look at your ring?" he whispered.

She laughed and stepped back to open her fist. She pried open the box with shaking fingers and found the saphire's dark eye staring back at her. The intricate infinity loop spread around the band and she felt her cheeks grow hot as he stared at her.

"Do you like it?" he whispered.

"It's beautiful," she said.

"It is...just like you. Complex and simple and beautiful and dark and a mixture of gold and silver..."

He was rambling now, not even thinking before he spoke but it was poetry to her and she loved it. His fingers worked at the band until it popped free of its holder, and then he slipped it on her finger. It was loose, but not by much.

She smiled at him and received a soft kiss, a hesitant touch of his tongue to her lips.

"I love you, Scully."

She fought at control and brushed the hair from his eyes.

"I've always loved you, Mulder. I just couldn't believe it."

end all
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